During a divorce, either spouse can ask the judge to award spousal support. In Mississippi, this type of financial support from one spouse to the other is known as alimony. The court will consider an alimony award if need financial support and your spouse is able to provide it. You can show financial need even if you have a job, as long as you can prove that your income is not enough to provide for your reasonable needs. An alimony award might also be appropriate if you are unemployable, meaning that you lack training or education or you have a disability and are unable to work. Before the court can award alimony, it has to look at your needs and your spouse’s ability to pay.
Alimony Award Factors
A judge will look at the same factors in every case, which are:
- each spouse’s income and expenses
- each spouse’s age, health and earning capacities
- each spouse’s needs, assets and debts
- whether there are minor children in the home and if the kids require child care by one or both parents
- the standard of living during the marriage and at the time of the support decision
- any tax consequences of the alimony order
- any fault or misconduct; and
- any wasteful dissipation of assets by either spouse.
The judge will consider all of these factors and then make a decision. The length of the marriage and whether one spouse worked as a homemaker are particularly important elements. For example, if you have been married for 30 years, and you gave up your career to stay at home to take care of the kids, you are likely to receive alimony at the time of divorce. However, if your spouse is not making enough to support both of you, or is also unemployable, the court may lessen the order for alimony, or may not order it at all.
Types of Alimony
There are three different types of alimony awards in Mississippi: periodic alimony, lump sum alimony, and rehabilitative alimony.
- Periodic alimony consists of payments set at specific time intervals for a certain period. For example, this could be a monthly payment for exactly ten years, or an order that lasts until a specific event occurs. This type of alimony ends when the dependent spouse gets remarried or if either spouse dies. Either spouse can go to the court and ask for a modification if there are changed circumstances. Changed circumstances can be employment changes for either spouse, or any physical changes or injuries that prevent either spouse from working.
- Lump sum alimony is a one-time payment from one spouse to the other; this is a final order between the two spouses that cannot be changed or modified. Although lump-sum payments are generally paid at one time, the court may allow the payments to be made in fixed installments. For example, if you are ordered to pay your spouse $50,000, then you may be able to pay $25,000 at the time of divorce and then another $25,000 in six months. This is all dependent on court approval. All orders are final, so even if your circumstances change after the order, you are still responsible to follow the court order.
- Rehabilitative alimony has the purpose of helping one spouse obtain training or education to become self-supporting. This type of alimony is for a fixed period of time and is subject to modification. For instance, if a judge awards you rehabilitative alimony for 36 months, and you are able to become employed and self-supporting within 24 months, then your spouse can ask the court to end the alimony before the 36 months are over.
Mississippi does not have specific guidelines or an alimony calculator—each judge makes decisions on a case by case basis, depending on the factors listed above. There is no formula for calculating support.
Tax Implications of Alimony
The general rule for alimony is that it is tax deductible to the spouse paying support and reportable as income by the receiving spouse.
Armstrong v. Armstrong, 618 So. 2d 1278 (1993) Factors considered in making alimony awards and types of awards.
Hubbard v. Hubbard, 656 So. 2d 124, 130 (Miss. 1995). Rehabilitative alimony
Mississippi Code § 93-5-23 Custody of children; alimony